Medicine Head – Rising Sun

11th May 2021 · 1970s, 1973, Music

I love this strangely timeless tune as much now as when it came out in 1973. And I’m sure this clip is the only example of a hit single prominently featuring the oldest instrument in the world.

With the twang of the mouthbow, and guitars that alternately jab and shimmer, and some sort of brushing sound, and the dramatic pause preceding the descending guitar figure just before the chorus, it inhabits a musical universe all its own. As does Peter Hope-Evan’s afro.

And that’s before the strange squelching organ bit that comes in towards the end.

On top of all that, lyrics don’t get much more romantic than the middle stanza: “When you speak it’s just like a symphony / Oh, your fingers touch me with poetry / Don’t underestimate what you mean to me / You’re like a constant glimpse of the rising sun.” Shelley and Keats would be proud of that.

Medicine Head formed in Birmingham in the late Sixties as a blues duo of singer and multi-instrumentalist John Fiddler (guitar, piano, drums) and Peter Hope-Evans (guitar, harmonica, Jews harp and its close relation the mouthbow – supposedly the oldest string instrument in the world).

They were discovered by John Peel and signed, at the urging of John Lennon, to his own Dandelion record label, which released their first three albums. This song, like their biggest hit One & One Is One, came from the fourth.

Their third, and last for Peel, was titled Dark Side Of The Moon. It came out in 1972 and Pink Floyd briefly considered changing the name of their own forthcoming opus (then known as Eclipse) until the Medicine Head album was a flop. Oddly, the title track features a guitar motif that seems to my ears to presage the memorable one played by Gilmour on Wish You Were Here. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.

A few years back at a gig I was introduced to an elegant gent of mature years with a flowing mane of white hair, matched by a white goatee. John Fiddler was mightily surprised, and really quite chuffed, that I remembered his band. And remembered them fondly.

I now realise I have never really investigated them much beyond their singles but I’m listening now to a collection of their old Radio 1 sessions from the Seventies and it’s well worth investigating.